Gardeners transform city parking lot into haven for the planet

Students have transformed a barren parking lot into a haven for people and wildlife in the bustling heart of Buenos Aires.

An urban garden in the shadows of a hospital feeds hundreds of people every week using organic food made without agrochemicals.

La Margarita is also a refuge for pollinators, with bees, wasps and butterflies buzzing about constantly.

They are attracted by the sweet scent of flowers, fruit and vegetables, including papaya, avocado and pumpkins

Organiser Rocio Fernandez told how green spaces in Argentina’s capital have disappeared because of gentrification.

She said: “We’re having a very big problem here with gentrification and we’re seeing it right now in Buenos Aires. We’re seeing lots of high buildings and empty houses.

“Right now there’s not a lot of people who understand what’s happening. Argentina has always had a lack of jobs. When you see a building going up, a lot of people call that progress because there are people that are working and they’re going to help the economy but they do not question what happens underneath which is that nobody is going to live in that house.

“So we’re having the same issues as any other capital city, unfortunately. The local Government has lots of support so it’s very difficult to fight that.”

The community hub struck a deal with the student union at Buenos Aires University which lets them grow food, feed locals and engage with people about the environment.

A butterfly garden is also home to an array of the beautiful insects which live out their life cycle within the colourful walls of La Margarita.

Grandparents often bring their grandchildren to the urban garden where produce is grown to feed people at the food bar.

Rocio said: “People are much happier when they come here because you see lots of green space and it has an immediate impact on health, especially mental health.”

Quinoa, beans and chicken are among the dishes on the menu for people who visit.

Organiser Sabrina Pozzi said: “It’s like therapy. It doesn’t replace actual therapy but it changed my life because I started to have my own plants on my balcony. 

“I could start to convince people to buy organic food. I am happy here. I know this is good.

“This is a very nice message because we are nature. If we take care of nature, we take care of us.”

Sabrina, Rocio and Elias Perez Sburlatti often spend time in the colourful garden which is dotted with materials that have been upcycled and recycled to give them a new lease on life.

A compost bin on the site is also available for locals.

The hub has inspired others to take action and create their own gardens on balcony windows or apartment patios.

Alongside running courses to teach people about creating their own home garden, the organisers want to educate locals about the law.

Rocio said: “This is a game changer but knowing about the law and how to fight for the law is another game changer. We’re trying to teach that.”

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